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Some bees camp out on summer nights

My lavender is among the last to bloom in Medford, partly because there isn't a lot of direct sun. I see a much different type of bee buzzing around the blooms, not a honeybee or big, black, hornet type. They're fuzzy, some honey-colored and others black with the honey-colored stripe. They're very active, right up until sundown sometimes. What I find amusing is that when I go out early in the morning, there will be  a dozen or two clinging to the bush, fast asleep. Can you tell me what kind of bees they are?

— Earl A., Medford

We sought out Rick Hilton, the highly versatile entomologist at the Oregon State University's Jackson County Extension/Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center. The professor tells us we're dealing with a very common-to-our-area yellow-faced bumblebee known in Latin as Bombus vosnesenskii. With a name like that, our guess is they migrated through Iceland.

"It seems that male bumblebees tend to sleep outdoors," Hilton told us, which makes them very happy campers after a long day sucking up lavender.

"The males do not have a stinger, so they can be handled without concern," he said. "Just don’t grab a female/worker because they do have a stinger and can use it — repeatedly — if bothered."

You can distinguish the difference between males and females mainly by size, with the males being smaller, but in the case of the yellow-faced bumblebee, the male has an extra yellow stripe on its abdomen.

"I am by no means suggesting that people should handle bumblebees willy nilly," Hilton warned. "But if you can tell the difference, then grabbing the males is an easy way for an entomology professor to impress their class."

We won't tell a soul.

If you're interested in finding out more about your neighborhood bumblebees, you can check out http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum="17843"

or http://mother-natures-backyard.blogspot.com/2014/06/yellow-faced-bumble-bee-bombus.html

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.